The Indiana Fever don't know when, or if, Tamika Catchings will return this season.
Hardnosed D: Tammy Sutton-Brown (left) of the Fever cuts off a drive by Yolanda Griffith, who finished 1-for-14 from the field. - Rob Goebel / The Star
Fever at Chicago
8 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN2
On Sunday night, they showed they can soldier on without their injured star.
"We're back to the grassroots of how we started the season," Fever guard Tully Bevilaqua said.
The Fever pestered and flustered Sacramento, employing the kind of defense that has been a Monarchs trademark -- and a Fever feature. The Fever clinched a berth in the WNBA playoffs with a 63-55 victory at Conseco Fieldhouse.
The Monarchs (16-11) shot a season-worst 30 percent and scored the fewest points by a Fever opponent this season. The Monarchs had 10 turnovers in the second quarter, allowing the Fever to build a 40-23 halftime lead.
Tamika Whitmore came off the bench to lead the Fever (18-11) with 16 points. Tan White added 14.
The Fever shot 50 percent in the first half but 28 percent thereafter. So the offense wasn't responsible for ending a skid of seven losses in eight games. It was kneepad-to-kneepad defense.
"When we play like that, we're a good basketball team," Fever coach Brian Winters said. "We certainly showed a lot of resolve tonight."
The Fever didn't arrive in Indianapolis until past noon Sunday after Saturday night's 84-59 loss at Connecticut. Caffeinated beverages must have been served on the flight.
"From the start, we got after it," White said. "We kind of shook them and got them out of their rhythm."
The Monarchs crept within 60-55 and had a chance to get closer, but Ticha Penicheiro's errant pass with 34 seconds left effectively stopped their rally.
Monarchs forward Nicole Powell shot 1-of-14 for four points, nine less than her team-leading average. Yolanda Griffith, the Monarchs' 37-year-old center, scored 11.
The Monarchs have reached the past two WNBA Finals. Griffith blasted her teammates, and the officials, in a profanity-laced tirade afterward.
"It's ridiculous. This isn't basketball, it's football," Griffith said.
The Fever, with five games to play, are dueling Connecticut (16-12) for No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Nos. 2 and 3 seeds open a best-of-three series Aug. 23 or 24 at the home of the No. 3 seed. Games 2 and 3, if necessary, will be at the No. 2 seed.
When Catchings went out with an injured plantar fascia in a July 20 loss to Detroit, she was projected to be out two to three weeks. Three weeks will have passed by the Fever's game Saturday at Detroit. Winters said there is no timetable for Catchings' return, and no certainty she will return at all.
"We have to be prepared for that fact," he said.
For one night, they were.
"We're a very resilient team," Whitmore said.
Tickets for the Fever's first playoff game can be purchased at the Conseco Fieldhouse box office or at FeverBasketball .com. . . . The Fever are 11-4 at home and 8-5 against the Western Conference. . . . The Fever have shot an aggregate .346 over the past four games. . . . The Monarchs have lost five in a row at Indiana. They had been 10-0 when holding opponents under 70 points. . . . Fever center Tammy Sutton-Brown, wearing a protective mask, had eight points and six rebounds in 29 minutes.